Pacifiers During First Weeks of Life
Infants who suck on pacifiers during
the first weeks of life are less likely to breastfeed exclusively
at four weeks of age and tend to stop breastfeeding sooner than
babies who don't receive pacifiers until later on, researchers
The study findings suggest that
parents who can avoid giving their babies pacifiers during the
first weeks of life should do so, study author Dr. Fred M. Howard
told Reuters Health.
"If you have an option, delaying
pacifier use until four weeks after birth is probably a good idea,"
the University of Rochester, New York researcher said.
Breastfeeding has been linked to
a number of health benefits for mothers and infants. Studies have
suggested that breastfed infants gain a few IQ points and a reduced
risk of sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and chronic digestive
Based on these and other benefits,
the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that mothers
avoid giving pacifiers and bottles to newborns in order to help
infants breastfeed with ease.
However, whether this recommendation
actually keeps babies breastfeeding longer during infancy has
remained unclear, Howard and his colleagues note in the journal
During the current study, Howard
and his team asked 700 expecting mothers who planned to breastfeed
their infants for at least four weeks to give their infants pacifiers
either during the first few days of life, or to hold off until
after four weeks.
Mothers were asked about their
infants' breastfeeding patterns periodically until one year after
The authors found that babies given
pacifiers during the first days of life were 50% less likely to
be relying on breastfeeding alone to meet their nutritional needs
at four weeks of age than infants who first used pacifiers later
In addition, babies given pacifiers
earlier tended to stop breastfeeding altogether sooner than those
given their first pacifiers after four weeks of age.
"Our study does, overall, support
the WHO recommendation," Howard said in an interview.
Howard and his team also found
that babies given supplemental nutrition tended to breastfeed
for less time than babies who went without formula, and infants
who drank their formula from a cup generally did not breastfeed
longer than babies who used a bottle.
"When possible, avoiding supplementation
is still a good idea," Howard noted.
In terms of why pacifier use might
interfere with breastfeeding, Howard explained that some experts
espouse a theory called "nipple confusion." Babies need to employ
different methods to suck on artificial or biological nipples,
he noted, and some suspect that infants who get used to artificial
nipples may develop problems breastfeeding as a result.
Alternatively, Howard suggested
that babies who suck on pacifiers may feel soothed by this behavior
enough to not desire breastfeeding as often as babies who don't
use pacifiers, and mothers who breastfeed less often tend to have
trouble producing milk as readily as others.
SOURCE: Pediatrics 2003;111:511-518.
Reference Source 89